Snappy one-liners and caste politics faded into the background, as the Lord of Small Things, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar pulled off a magnificent victory in the state for the second time round. His alliance has notched up 206 seats, against Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party’s 25 and the Congress’ poor four. As a commentator pointed out on television, if Lalu Prasad gave people a voice, it was Nitish who heard what they asked for when they used that voice. It was not the big-ticket items like caste that carried the day. It was the small culverts, the repaired bridges, the new roads, the bicycles and uniforms for girls, and most important, the freedom from fear.
Nitish Kumar’s style is in marked contrast to the flamboyant Lalu Prasad. He is a man of few words and, now we discover, much action. Lalu Prasad revels in witticisms and wily caste politics. The Congress that had hoped to make its presence felt in Bihar fell far short of its own expectations despite energetic campaigning by its top leadership. Whether it was on issues or on personalities, the people simply didn’t want to listen to anything anti-Nitish. To his credit, the chief minister has single-handedly pulled Bihar out of the black hole it’s been in for much of its existence. True, there is much, much more to be done before investment comes pouring in as it has for Gujarat. But, there is interest in the potential of the once benighted state and enormous faith in its leader. Nitish Kumar also has the advantage, in this day and age of nepotism and grace and favours, of not pushing for any freebies for himself or his family members. With the precision of the engineer that he is, he got down to the nuts and bolts of governance which many in his own party and that of his ally, the BJP, felt would not pay the combine any dividends. He has also ended the myth that identity politics alone can win votes. Lalu Prasad’s humiliating rout proves this.
It must have alarmed many, even among his staunch supporters, that Lalu Prasad had laid the foundations for propagating the dynasty when he anointed his young son as the future heir. The roads in Bihar tell the story of two brands of politics, that of Nitish and that of Lalu. While Lalu spoke of making them as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks but failed miserably, Nitish simply got down to business and built them. It was in
his many small acts of making life that much more tolerable in the state that Mr Kumar scored. If he continues in his second term to consolidate the work he began in the first, he could well go on to become the Lord of All Things.